Friday, January 27, 2006

Doyle for Unitary Executive of Wisconsin!

OK, the title is a bit deceiving, but since Neo-Cons want to make Bush into a “unitary executive” I thought perhaps they would do the same for Governor Doyle. You wont you say? Well, explain to me why I should trust Bush with that kind of power? Come now. Let us sit down and discuss what this really means. I really don’t think that real conservatives will be for this kind of unchecked power.

In a Federalist Society publication in 2001, U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito affirmed his belief in what is called the “unitary executive”. Some have described this as a “King with Advisers” form of government. Republicans, knowing that this talk sounds like a power grab, have claimed that it simply means that we “only have one president.” This desperate defense is completely absurd. It also shows the contempt that the Neo-Cons have for the people of this country. Do they really think we are that stupid?

Rather than argue over the definition right now, why don’t we look at how the Bush Administration has used this theory. Remember when John McCain had to “negotiate” with Bush for him to sign the anti-torture legislation? You saw the meeting of the two on the news, but what you might not have seen was Bush writing his “signing statement” that accompanied that bill. A signing statement is basically the President giving his interpretation of the law he just signed. Something does not seem right here, because I thought that the Judicial Branch was the one that interpreted law. In any case, this is what the Bush Administration put in that signing statement:
The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power.

In other words, “Even though I’m signing this bill, I’ll torture whoever I want to! Screw the courts!” Bush is not only trying to take away from the Judicial Branch by claiming the power to interpret law, but he is also in effect rewriting the legislation, thus replacing the Legislative Branch also.

The signing statement has been a presidential tool for some time, but Bush has taken it to frightening levels. This from Jennifer Van Bergen in a piece from the Find Law website:

President Bush has used presidential signing statements more than any previous president. From President Monroe's administration (1817-25) to the Carter administration (1977-81), the executive branch issued a total of 75 signing statements to protect presidential prerogatives. From Reagan's administration through Clinton's, the total number of signing statements ever issued, by all presidents, rose to a total 322.
In striking contrast to his predecessors, President Bush issued at least 435 signing statements in his first term alone. And, in these statements and in his executive orders, Bush used the term "unitary executive" 95 times.
Combine all of these things together and you’ve got an attack on a fundamental belief of the founders- the seperation of powers. If you will not listen to my reasoning, will you listen to some of them?

James Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers, No. 47, that:
The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.

Another early American, George Nicholas, articulated the concept of "power divided" in one of his letters:
The most effectual guard which has yet been discovered against the abuse of power, is the division of it. It is our happiness to have a constitution which contains within it a sufficient limitation to the power granted by it, and also a proper division of that power. But no constitution affords any real security to liberty unless it is considered as sacred and preserved inviolate; because that security can only arise from an actual and not from a nominal limitation and division of power.

Responding to this historic quote Van Bergen comments:

Yet it seems a nominal limitation and division of power - with real power concentrated solely in the "unitary executive" - is exactly what President Bush seeks. His signing statements make the point quite clearly, and his overt refusal to follow the laws illustrates that point: In Bush's view, there is no actual limitation or division of power; it all resides in the executive.
This is truly a frightening time for our democracy and I only wish that thoughtful conservatives would stand up and be counted. If you are out there, I hope you answer that call as I hope I would if my guy claimed these King-like powers.


publius said...

Doyle isn't a unitary executive???

Did you see his budget vetoes?

Cory Liebmann said...

i don’t think that doyles’ vetoes alone equal the current power grab by bush.

you have a fair point about his vetoes however, i don’t particularly care for the creative use of the line item either. but i didn’t hear conservatives complaining when tommy did the same thing.

you didn’t say if you favored bush having the unitary executive powers. if you do favor it for bush, then how do you explain the inconsistency?

publius said...

Tommy wasn't insulting in the way Doyle's were; he took it to new levels. Tommy didn't change the meaning of whole a whole sentence/paragraph (ex: shall not becomes shall under Doyle). Morever, spending never went up after a Thompson veto, and last I checked, Marotta/Bablitch don't have the constitutional authority to authorize blanket spending (that is vested in the Legislature and the Governor).

Now to the question re: Bush. I believe that the constitutional powers granted to the President, and further strengthened by Congress over the course of 200 years, have allowed our president to become the most powerful man in the world (behind Warren Buffet of course). Right or wrong, that's the way it is. I think that the mere fact that this debate is going on reflects that A) the law isn't clear enough because he (and many others - in and outside of his administration) believe he was well within the limits of the law with regards to his wiretaps, and B) we have a vibrant, healthy democracy because we ARE HAVING this debate.

No, I'm not entirely comfortable with an all-powerful president, just as I wouldn't be comfortable with an all-powerful Congress. The problem is, that is what they want, for at any given minute in this country, there are no less than 100 candidates for president and sometimes 535, and any substantive debate gets lost against that background noise.

Which leads to an entirely different way to look at this and that is what John Q. Voter sees: Bush wins the PR debate on this issue. Everytime Russ Feingold talks about it, he has to explain why spying on terrorists is wrong. In 30 seconds or less, Bush has only to say that he was monitoring calls by terrorists in and outside of the country, while Feingold, et al., has to explain the 1978 FISA court, due process, terrorist human rights, stratgey in Iraq, we haven't found Bin Laden, and :ldkjfa;lksjd;....

Time's up, Russ.

But again - the debate is healthy nonetheless.

Cory Liebmann said...

thanks for the comments, i do appreciate the discussion.

regarding vetoes, my bottom line is that i don't like the creative use of them. a simple line item is ok but making something the opposite through a creative veto is not right for a dem or an r.

presidential power has increased over the years but how far do we let that go? is there some point where we say that's enough regardless of the trend?

it's good to see that you are not comfortable with an all powerful president. there will eventually be a dem in office and i'm sure you'd not particularly like an all powerful hillary (just an example as she is not my fav).

i don't think bush is clearly winning the pr debate on this one although regrettably that is true about alot of other issues. he who's argument is shorter wins. comments that i have heard by russ have been fairly simple i think. if we were talking about john kerry then i would agree (i don't think he can break down anything in a simple way).

let me try my hand at this...

please spy on as many terrorists as you want. just follow the law. no one is above the law. if it's an emergency you can get the warrant 3 days afterwards.

i think that took about 5 seconds.

as an aside, nbc revealed that the dod was spying on a quaker group and various peace groups. i have a hard time believing that those people are terrorists. that kind of thing makes me worry that it might be politically motivated. without oversight we might never know.